Why Institutional Partnerships Matter: A Regional Innovation Systems Approach to Making the ICT for Development Projects More Successful and Sustainable

Why Institutional Partnerships Matter: A Regional Innovation Systems Approach to Making the ICT for Development Projects More Successful and Sustainable

Rajendra Kumar (Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-997-2.ch014
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Abstract

This chapter examines the role of institutional partnerships in making the ICT for development projects more successful and sustainable in developing countries. Employing a regional innovation systems (RIS) perspective, I examine this issue in the context of lessons drawn from the failure of telecenters in Melur taluka of Tamil Nadu under the Sustainable Access in Rural India (SARI) project. These telecenters aimed at delivering a host of services such as email, voice chat, health, e-government, and agricultural and veterinary services to the rural community. They were operated by two sets of operators: self-employed local entrepreneurs and a local NGO. After operating for nearly three years, most of the kiosks run by the self-employed entrepreneurs had closed down by mid-2005, whereas those run by the NGO were still operating. Using primary data from interviews with the kiosk owners and operators, I argue that the failure of the kiosks to sustain themselves was due to weak institutional linkages and networking among actors in the local and regional innovation systems, and the inability of the RIS to evolve and respond effectively and quickly to the changing preferences and needs of the rural community. I conclude that ensuring a project’s success and sustainability requires the presence of an effective regional innovation system with strong but flexible and dynamic linkages among the relevant actors such as the state, universities, private sector, civil society organizations, the user community, and the funding organizations.

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